Porcelain | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Porcelain, Trap Door Theatre. Few plays pack more truth and power into 75 minutes than Singapore-born playwright Chay Yew's searing, complex anatomy of a crime of passion (produced by Eclipse Theatre here in 1994). John Lee, a 19-year-old Cambridge-bound Anglo-Chinese man, shoots to death his white sex partner in a public toilet. Yew depicts the act from several points of view--those of indifferent cops, an exploitative reporter, a criminal psychologist, the killer's father, even the victim himself. Once we see its full import, Yew re-creates the shooting.

References to Beauty and the Beast and Madame Butterfly make Yew's indictment wrenchingly clear. As a homosexual, Lee is invisible to his Chinese family; as an Anglo-Asian, he's equally cut off from the racist closet cases who frequent this busy loo. Sex is one thing, love nothing. But Lee will kill to possess his lover, especially after being convinced despite a lifetime's hard evidence that his victim cared for him.

Giving Yew's fluid, graphic script the passion and precision it requires, director Michael Matthews makes Porcelain a stylized tour de force, and Jeff Grafton, Derek Brummet, Culley Orion, and Tim Hanna are utterly convincing as the skeptical, puzzled, or sympathetic outsiders against whom we measure Lee. It's equally a solo triumph for Sean Aquino, who viscerally conveys Lee's universal longings, particular pain, and bitter isolation. We understand his crime far more forcefully than we condemn it.

--Lawrence Bommer


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